When I was growing up, friendship was always very tough for me. Between emotional distance and age differences, I was never very close to any of my siblings. Which was more important than it would have been in most cases since we moved around quite a lot in my early childhood, so it was difficult to create deep bonds with people outside my family. I always had friends, but it was typically just one or two.
Until sixth grade. The summer after I moved on from elementary school, we also moved down to Georgia. At the time, I thought my world was over. I had three very close friends in Virginia, and I was certain I would never make friends to that level of connection again. And to top that off, I was painfully shy and completely uncertain of how to handle myself in social situations. In my mind, there aren’t too many things tougher than being the new kid in a school where most of your peers have been together since babyhood. Even if they aren’t close to each other, they are all still known quantities. Whereas you are a complete question mark and, though they don’t mean to be unfriendly, they simply have no real reason to pull you in.
Lord knows, my parents tried. They pushed me to get involved in things, and my mom worried about me when I cried myself to sleep at night. They even flew some of my Virginia friends down and flew me up to try and keep those relationships alive. But let’s face it, when you’re ten, it’s really tough to keep an emotional connection going with someone who’s not able to come over for a sleepover on Friday night.
Seventh grade, I made one friend, and the world opened up again. But my encounter with friendship was still minimal. I’ve always believed in building a few deep relationships rather than focusing on a plethora of acquaintances. And I’ve always had a difficult time, because I’ve had a lot of friendships throughout my life that have really let me down.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m an extremely emotional person, and I don’t do any emotion halfway. If I call you my friend, I’m all in. Push my chips to the center of the table. I will love you, support you, laugh and cry with you, and be there for you through anything. Call me. I’m your girl.
It’s been extremely difficult for me when I’ve offered that and it hasn’t been returned. I’ve found it very painful to be in any kind of relationship where your level of love and commitment is stronger than that of the other person. And so, gradually over the years, I’ve let those relationships go and built new ones, only to let them go again and search for new building blocks elsewhere.
You can imagine that after this lifelong struggle with friendship, I am quite surprised to find myself sitting here in 2013 with more friends than I can count. And to truly feel that these relationships all operate on the level of equilibrium that I’ve always craved. Where I KNOW that when I need to lean, they will be there to support me. That they care about my dreams. And that they believe there is wonderful to be found within me.
I’ve been depressed several times in my life, and I’ve worked very hard over the years to develop the mask. The one I can pull on to hide the scars and still open wounds that cover me. Like a layer of foundation over facial imperfections that you’d rather hide from the world. I’ve become adept at holding this mask, and can carry it even when it becomes heavy.
How special it is to be with the people with whom I can truly let the mask drop. Who I can show all my hopes, fears, dreams, hurts, weaknesses and unrelenting joys to. And what’s been truly astounding to me over the past year is that this group has grown exponentially for me. And I want to be clear that some of these people are in my family. And that some of the ones who aren’t in a legal sense, I consider to be family.
This has really been so hard for me to write. I’ve been crying the whole time. And this is after months of wanting to write this to you without being able to find the words within me to do so. As a writer, there is very little that is more annoying or more difficult to feel something deeply and to search for the words to express the feeling, only to find that you are unable to access them.
I want you all to know – and if you’re my friend, then you absolutely know who you are… No, I need you to know just one thing. One that’s been so hard for me to explain properly (and some of you have heard me try before).
You are the foundation. You are the strength I build upon when my own is not enough. You are the solace I turn to when life becomes more than I can handle alone. And you are the amplification that I give my joy to, which truly makes it bloom.
I think God gives us certain people on purpose. To speak the words He would speak that we are unable to hear. To hold us when we cannot feel His hands or arms around us. And to remind us that we are never, never alone. So many of us feel the same things in different applications in our lives. We hurt, we cry, we laugh, we love, we struggle, we fear and we find peace. Maybe all in different ways, but there is a level, deep within, where we are all so similar that the minute disparities are almost imperceptible.
I needed to say this. To my friends, I needed to show you that the depth of my love for you all has no boundaries. And to everyone else who may read this who I don’t know, I wanted to tell you that the more I find the strength to be open, to truly be myself, the more I find people who will treasure that and keep it safe. It can be so scary in our world to really put yourself out there. To be completely honest. Sometimes you will be let down. Sometimes you will be ridiculed. But sometimes you will be understood and loved beyond belief. I can’t promise you no pain – in fact, I can probably promise you that there will be some along the way. But somewhere, if you really allow yourself to be exposed and real, somewhere there will also be a hand that won’t let go. In my life, this love is the only thing that is unbreakable.
Yes, I needed to say all of this. Because sometimes all you need is foundation, the knowledge that you’re okay as you are, a good glass of wine, and the people who believe in you no matter what.